I got my plate and examined the contents quickly: two piping hot grilled leg quarters, jerk sauce generously applied, and a large slice of hardo bread. I gave the grillmaster a 5 spot and had a couple bucks left over. The scout, who now stuck to me closely, began to ask for compensation for holding me up and walking with me 20 feet from Margaritaville. “Why don’t you take care of me”, he asked me slyly as we walked back to the bus. People were starting to pile in and I didn’t want to get left behind. “You didn’t do anything but walk with me up the hill”, I countered. “I protect ya”, he protested. “I get ya the real, true jerk chicken!” Not being one for the games (and I intended to tip him anyway), I gave him a few loose dollars I had and jumped on the bus. He said, “respect” before we pulled off, pocketed the money, and latched onto another loose visitor.
The game was deeper than I thought, but I consoled myself with the thought that I finally had jerk chicken from the streets of Jamaica. The bus was quieter, the air cooler. We were all worn out and tired. I personally had been up for nearly a day and was running on whatever you have when adrenaline runs out. What a wild place. The lights on the mountainside gave what was otherwise a black mass, contour, shape, and depth, flickering as we passed shadows. Their tungsten hues glowed gently like summer fireflies. Even at night, Montego Bay was beautiful. As I took a bite of my jerk, anticipating the flavorful sting of the spice, the heat, the juices, the full deal…I quickly realized as one does about any food at 3 am: It was meh. To be fair though, what did a drunk man know about anything? I did understand food though…and good food at that. I got a hustle too. Apparently what I didn’t understand, but in time would, was “respect”.